Sunday, November 29, 2009

For His Soul Is Bound Up: Innocent Blood & Egla Arufah

ל וְעַתָּה, כְּבֹאִי אֶל-עַבְדְּךָ אָבִי, וְהַנַּעַר, אֵינֶנּוּ אִתָּנוּ; וְנַפְשׁוֹ, קְשׁוּרָה בְנַפְשׁוֹ. 30 Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad is not with us; seeing that his soul is bound up with the lad's soul;

~Genesis 44:30


Radak/רד"ק בראשית פרק מד:
ונפשו קשורה בנפשו - מרוב אהבה ואם לא ישוב הנער אתנו תצא נפשו ותהיה האשמה רבה עלינו ועליך שסבבת את מיתתו. ואם תאמר כי חטא לך והלא אתה אמרת ואשימה עיני ואיה השמת עין, אם לא חטא לך אינו צריך להשמת עין אבל אם חטא לך, כמו שאתה אומר, כי הוא לא לקחו, אבל אחר שנמצא באמתחתו לא נוכל לכחש, ואם תשא עונו זו היא תשומת עין. ואם תאמר למה אדבר אני עליו יותר מאחי:

Seichel Tov/ שכל טוב (בובר) בראשית פרק מדל:
ועתה כבואי אל עבדך אבי והנער איננו אתנו. כשיראה אביו כך, מיד ונפשו קשורה בנפשו, כשתי תרנגולים שקשורים זה בזה כיון ששומט השועל אחד מהם הרי חבירו אחריו נמשך, כך כשיראה הנער נפרד ממנו, הרי נשמתו יוצאת מן הגוף והולכת:

Otzer HaMidrashim/ אוצר המדרשים (אייזנשטיין:
מעשיותוגם לא זה שאמר לכם להניחו ואמר שהוא הרגו מפני שהוא אוהב אותו ונפשו קשורה בנפשו. אכן אדונינו הניחו לזה ולא יהרג נקי, כי אני הרגתיו וטוב מותי בעוה"ז ולא אמות בעוה"ב.

There is a Midrash that states that Joseph sent wagons to Jacob to show that it was really him because they had learned up till the portion of egla arufa. But I think that if you look at the actual text you realize something else in addition to this. Joseph had originally planned to keep Benjamin away from his father in his quest to test his brothers. However, his brothers (especially Judah) rose to this challenge and defended Benjamin, stating that their father Jacob would die without him because "his soul is bound up" with that of the lad. Otzer HaMidrashim makes the point that Joseph would thus be guilty of spilling innocent blood. An egla arufa is brought because innocent blood has been spilled.

Thus, for Joseph to send Benjamin back with the wagons symbolizing egla arufa would connote more than one thing. Not only is it a reminder to Jacob that he had learned up until the parsha of egla arufa with his son Joseph but it also symbolizes the fact that Joseph is not guilty of committing the sin for which one would bring an egla arufa. Through sending Benjamin back, he has not caused his father to die. Indeed, in a literary twist of compelling genius, he sends his agalos to ensure that innocent blood will not be spilled because he is sending for his father to come back and be made whole again upon meeting him, Joseph, once more. Jacob had mourned and mourned for Joseph and refused to be comforted (the understanding being that one is not comforted regarding the loss of someone who is not dead). A part of him had been lost. When Joseph sends the agalos to bring Jacob down to Egypt, he is planning to revive his father and ensure that not only will no innocent blood be spilled but in fact the complete opposite shall happen! Jacob shall be whole anew.

So sending agalos to symbolize eglah arufa is brilliant because:

1. It shows Jacob that it really is Joseph who is alive due to the symbol of where they had learned up to in the Torah portion. (Like mother, like son- Rachel had symbols and signs with Jacob, now Joseph does...)

2. It suggests that the "innocent blood" Jacob had thought had been spilled (i.e. Joseph's) will be requited because Joseph is still alive.

3. It shows that Joseph has refrained from spilling innocent blood himself (keeping Benjamin behind and thus killing his father.)

So the agalah/ eglah connection is a literary masterpiece. Huzzah for the Midrash! And for anyone who thinks the Torah is not a love story, that's because you have yet to truly read it. Every emotion in the world is there in some form.


Dana said...

wow... beautiful thought! and this finally makes sense to me after all these years..
thank you! :)

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!